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Why Christians Should Care About Good Writing

This week the blog is sponsored by Zondervan Reflective, and the post is written by Jared C. Wilson.

“It doesn’t really matter if I can ‘dress it up;’ I just have to have the facts right.”

I’ve heard some variation of that sentiment a number of times over the years, more lately while teaching my writing course at Midwestern Seminary. Some Christians are committed to the idea that the quality of writing isn’t really all that Christian a concern. What really matters is quality doctrine. Maybe they’re drawing from Paul’s words about the gospel not relying on eloquence (1 Cor. 2:1-2). Maybe they’re drawing from a perceived tradition in evangelicalism of suspicion toward artistry. But whatever the reason, many seem to think how we write is not all that important.

I will agree that how we write is not nearly as important as what we write. The simplest, most ineloquent person in the world can still wield the supernatural power of change if he can articulate the true gospel of Jesus. But the supreme importance of what we communicate does not negate the importance of how we communicate. Most evangelicals understand this experientially as it pertains to preaching and singing—or even just regular communication (e.g., “speaking the truth in love”)—but when it comes to the written word, I don’t know if enough have thought about the reasons for pursuing excellence in articulation. Here, then, are four reasons Christians should care about good writing:

No Christian writer can make the gospel more or less powerful; it already is the power of salvation for those who believe. But we can make it look more or less powerful with how we write about it.

Jared C. Wilson

Our neighbor’s care

When we take the care to write excellently, we show kindness to our readers—who are our neighbors, biblically speaking—by not frustrating or challenging them with dense prose, clunky phrasing, or boring expressions. Avoiding cliches and dull illustrations is one way we can write with our neighbor’s enjoyment in mind. Certainly, in Christian writing, we care most about communicating the goodness of God and the truth of Christ Jesus. That is the ultimate act of love. But by taking care also to communicate the beauty of the gospel in beautiful ways, we help our neighbors not just see how the word of God is factually true but emotionally and spiritually true as well. Christian writers should care about not boring or irritating their readers because they love their readers as they love themselves.

Our ministry’s excellence

Anything worth doing—especially worth doing in the name of Jesus—is worth doing well! “Whatever your hand finds to do,” Ecclesiastes 9:10 encourages us, “do it with all your strength.” In a day when quality workmanship is suffering in nearly every sphere of the marketplace, how much more should those who represent the good news of Jesus work in such a way that exemplifies thoughtfulness, intelligence, and creativity. Now, in the evangelical world, particularly in the West, creativity for a long time has been elevated to idolatrous status, but this does not mean we shouldn’t value creativity at all! Christian writers should work at their craft, becoming excellent in their work, the same way other artists and tradesmen improve at theirs. Quality work validates the sincerity and the passion of the worker. When a Christian writer pursues excellence, he shows by the effort that he really believes this stuff!

The Bible’s example

Have you ever noticed that the Bible doesn’t read like a toaster manual? Across 66 books from a variety of authors in a variety of contexts, in a variety of genres—history, poetry, prophecy, letters—God’s holy word reflects an artistry and beauty in full splendor. The Bible is so well written! And if the biblical writers, inspired by the Holy Spirit, cared about producing well-written content, shouldn’t we? If they wrote with passion and artistry, shouldn’t we?

The gospel’s adornment 

When I am about to preach or teach somewhere, I sometimes post a social media update with this prayer: “Jesus, be big!” Every now and again, I will have someone chastise me for this expression. “We don’t make Jesus big; he’s already big,” they will say. Of course, I agree. By my prayer, I don’t mean that you or I can make Jesus anything. We don’t make him Lord. He already is Lord. We don’t make him glorious. He already is glorious. But I am praying that Jesus will be seen as big in the hearts of those who are present at the event. That Jesus is already “big” doesn’t mean he is always seen by everyone that way. I like to think of my preaching (and my writing) as efforts to magnify the glory of Christ. In a way, what good Christian writing does is adorn the glory of the gospel. No Christian writer can make the gospel more or less powerful; it already is the power of salvation for those who believe. But we can make it look more or less powerful with how we write about it. Similarly, we don’t make God glorious, but we still give him glory. We still sing and preach about him in such a way that we are ascribing glory to him. That’s how Christian writers should write.

There are more good reasons for Christian writers to pursue excellence, but these four are primary to my artistic pursuit. Perhaps you will find them encouraging in your pursuit of writing as well. If you are—or if you know—a Christian writer, you can find much more along these lines in my brand new book The Storied Life: Christian Writing as Art and Worship. Whether you’re an aspiring author, a regular preacher, or just like to dabble in creative writing or daily journaling, The Storied Life is written with you in mind. It’s available from Zondervan Reflective wherever Christian books are sold.

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